In the midst of the debate and confusion surrounding the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), Eberhard Jüngel published Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith in an effort to bring some clarity to the situation. The book rarely addresses the JDDJ directly, but instead tries to answer the questions "What does Protestant mean?... Who or what really deserves to be called Protestant." It was Jüngel's hope that a straightforward and robust presentation of the basic Protestant article of the "justification of the ungodly by faith alone" would implicitly demonstrate that the JDDJ is not "the breakthrough it believes itself to be" and that it "rests on ground which proves at places quite slippery." The result is a brilliant and compelling exposition of the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae that is valuable beyond the polemical context of its origin. Sadly, the book is difficult to find in the US, as few libraries carry it and the cost is outrageous ($50 for the paperback edition!).
Given recent discussions on this site regarding justification, I hope to provide a more detailed summary of this book in future. For now, I think it's worthwhile to highlight Jüngel's thoughts on ecumenism in general. In doing so, it's important to remember that he is an avowed ecumenist who has been active in dialogues between Lutherans and Catholics for a number of years. However, Jüngel is firm in his belief that ecumenical progress cannot be purchased at the expense of doctrinal clarity and intellectual honesty. Thus, he admits that he "takes little pleasure in compromise." But this shouldn't be taken as mere stubbornness or confessional sterility on his part. As John Webster mentions in the introduction, for Jüngel, "contending about the truth is itself a contribution to ecumenism, since it is the truth of the gospel which is the only ground for peace." As Jüngel says, "ecumenism only flourishes when we on both sides become more Protestant in the best sense of the word. Then we on both sides also become more Catholic in the best sense of the word."
Based on such criteria, Jüngel's objections to the JDDJ were many, and I won't go into them here. Suffice it to say, he found "no sound theological foundations laid here 'on the way to overcoming the division of the church'. For here decisive insights of the Reformation were either obscured or surrendered." Moreover, in Justification, he seems to ask the question: Is anything really gained from such agreements?
"How is it possible to reconcile an ecumenical 'consensus about fundamental truths of the doctrine of justification' with the Pope's announcement of a Jubilee indulgence for the year 2000? An even more pressing issue is how to square that consensus with the spiritual outrage that, from the Roman Catholic point of view, there can still be no fellowship at the Eucharist between Protestant and Catholic Christians. Can we really, as the authors of the Joint Declaration expressly do at the end, 'give thanks to the Lord for this decisive step forward on the way to overcoming the division of the church', when we are not authorized to celebrate the Eucharist together?"
In other words, if ecumenical agreements like the JDDJ are completely divorced from Church practice (i.e, like indulgences and communion fellowship) what is the point of these exercises? Given the importance of justification as "the article on which the church stands or falls", fundamental agreement on this matter should be enough to allow the two sides to share the Lord's Supper together. The fact that such fellowship does not exist (at least from one side) suggests to me that the agreement is only skin-deep.